David Vail

Interim Assistant Chair, Associate Professor

Office: COPH 103G   |    Phone: (308) 865-8403   |    Email: vaildd@unk.edu

David Vail


  • Ph.D.  Kansas State University, 2012
  • M.A.  Utah State University, 2006
  • B.A.  Southern Oregon University, 2004

Specialization Areas

  • Environmental and Agricultural History
  • History of Science, Technology, and Medicine
  • Public History


David Vail is an associate professor of history at UNK. He grew up in Southern Oregon's Rogue Valley and spent much of his youth exploring the state's mountains and wilderness areas. He is a first-generation student that holds a BA from Southern Oregon University, an MA from Utah State University, and a PhD from Kansas State University. Dr. Vail’s specializations include Environmental and Agricultural History, History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, and Public History. He has published articles in academic journals such as Kansas History, Endeavour (History of Science), Middle West ReviewGreat Plains Quarterly, and Great Plains Research.

Dr. Vail’s book, Chemical Lands: Pesticides, Aerial Spraying, and Health in North America's Grasslands Since 1945 (University of Alabama Press, 2018) is an environmental-agricultural-technological history of aerial pesticide application, agricultural science and food production in North America’s grasslands.

His second book (co-authored with Debra A. Reid of the Henry Ford Museum), Interpreting Environment at Museums and Historic Sites (Rowman and Littlefield, 2019), offers a multi-disciplinary approach to research environmental history, document evidence of human influence on land and the environment over time, and tailor that knowledge to new public engagement.

Professional Website

Frequently Taught Courses


  • History of Science and Medicine
  • American History (since 1865) ​
  • American History (before 1865)


  • History of Global Pandemics
  • History of National Parks
  • The Age of Eisenhower
  • Warfare and the Environment in the 20th Century
  • American Environmental History
  • Agricultural History
  • History of Science and Technology
  • History of the Great Depression
  • America Interpreted

Some Recent Thesis Projects

  • Erika Prince, “The Vineyard of the Lord: The Adaptable Methodist Identity of Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meetings, 1835–1880,” 2020–present
  • David Blakely, “An Environmental History of the First Great Awakening,” 2019–present
  • David Lea, “Pests, Prey, and Profits: Wildlife Conservation, Sport, and the Creation of a State during Arizona’s Territorial Period,” 2019–present
  • Leah Stagg, “‘This is Now Our War!:’ Beaver County, Utah and World War I,” 2019–present
  • Will Connelly, “Buried in Our Backyard: The Environmental Legacy of American Chemical Weapons Production and Disposal,” 2019–present
  • Justin Horn, “Where Meteorologists Fear to Tread:” Weather Modification on the Great Plains and the Rainmakers of the 1890s,” Completed Spring 2020.
  • Hannah Freeman, Coveralls or Coverless: Rosie the Riveters and Pin-Up Girls on the World War II Home Front,” Completed Fall 2019.